Chester Alan Arthur was a Gilded Age bon vivant and former head of the New York Customs House when he became James A. Garfield's vice presidential running mate. Within four months this machine politician, who had never been elected to anything before the vice presidency, found himself in America's top job when Garfield was assassinated.
Author Zachary Karabell examines Arthur's life and legacy on Wednesday, May 23, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St.
Garfield's assassin was a deranged man who thought he deserved a federal job. Arthur, who had himself benefited from the political spoils system, decided it was time for a change.
Though Arthur is largely forgotten today, Karabell argues that in creating a professional civil service he set America on a course toward even greater reforms in the decades to come.
Watch a YouTube video about the assassination of James Garfield and the presidency of Chester Alan Arthur.
Karabell's Chester Alan Arthur has been praised by Publisher's Weekly, which opined that "By exploring the Gilded Age's parallels with our own divisive political scene, Karabell does an excellent job of cementing the volume's relevance for contemporary readers."
Karabell is the author of several books of history, including The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Election and Parting the Desert: The Creation of the Suez Canal. He has taught at Harvard and Dartmouth. Chester Alan Arthur is published by Times Books.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407.
The event is part of the Hail to the Chiefs series on the American Presidency co-presented by the Kansas City Public Library and the Truman Library Institute and co-sponsored by KCUR's Up to Date.